Sir Georg Solti at 100 – Part 1

Sir George Solti, everything from Bach to Kodaly(Photo: Deeca)
Sir George Solti, everything from Bach to Kodaly(Photo: Deeca)

He was born Gyorgy Stern in Budapest in 1912. There was little chance for a young Jewish man to break into music – so he eventually fled west. As Georg (not George) Solti (Shohl-tee) he became a world-class conductor with a 60 year career.

Solti was music director at the Frankfurt Opera, The Royal Opera in London and the Chicago Symphony. He made the first studio recordings of Wagner’s Ring cycle. He conducted the Bach Passions, Verdi and Wagner operas, the symphonic repertoire from Haydn, the Stravinsky ballets and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron. He missed very little. Solti was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978 so its okay to refer to him as Sir Georg Solti,

Solti was my first conductor. My third grade class studied Aida and Solti’s recording with Leontyne Price was used. I weep at the beauty of that recording to this day.

Solti had a driven, sometimes “over the top” style, well suited to Verdi and Richard Strauss. His Mahler was controversial, but this finale of the 2nd Symphony blows me away. We are in Paris, in 1967

Solti died on September 5, 1997. That was same week: Princess Diana died on August 31, Mother Teresa and Sir Georg on September 5. Even so the fiery Hungarian took his turn on page one of the newspapers-Mother Teresa above the fold, admittedly and Princess Diana on going.

I just found this rehearsal footage of Solti conducting Verdi’s Otello in Chicago with Pavarotti and Dame Kiri TeKanawa.  Notice how Solti has an umbrella bearer but the Dame Commander of the British Empire has to bloody well make do in the rain.

Coming up later this week will be broadcasts of Wagner’s Siegfried, Saturday at noon, and the maestro’s very last recording, Koldaly’s Psalmus Hungaricus. More to say about them anon. 

Stay tuned.

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